Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Draw Near to God: Day Six

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Day Six: Experiencing God through worship

I rejoiced with those who said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122: 1

The best journeys contain moments of joy and gratitude.  We pause on a hike up the mountain to look out at the view and suddenly we realize how far we have come. We express our gratitude and joy for our spiritual progress with worship.  

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.  –William Temple

***

 O most high, glorious God, how great is my dilemma!  In your awful presence silence seems best.  And yet, if I keep my peace, the rocks themselves will cry out.  But if I do speak, what will I say?

It is Love that calls forth my speech, though it still feels like stammering.  I love you, Lord God, I adore you.  I worship you. I bow down before you.

            Thank you for your gifts of grace:

            -the consistency of sunrise and sunset

            -the wonder of colors

            -the solace of voices I know

I magnify you, Lord. Let me see your greatness – to the extent that I can receive it.  Help me bow in your presence in endless wonder and ceaseless praise.

In the name of him whose adoration never failed. 

Amen      Richard Foster –  Prayer

How do you experience worship? What are the “gifts of grace” in your life?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

Draw Near to God: Day Three

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Day Three: Taking time for the journey

I lift up my eyes to the hills –

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 1-2

The journey begins and we may begin to notice the beauty in the world around us.   A song, a painting, a field of flowers, the bird at the feeder. Can we slow down enough to take it in?  And what does it say about the One who made it?

One bird, a thrush, embroidered the silence with cheery notes, making the solitude familiar and sweet, while the solemn monotone of the stream sifting through the woods seemed like the very voice of God, humanized, terrestrialized, and entering one’s heart as to a home prepared for it.  John Muir

 ***

Traditionally, a journey was a rhythm of three forces: time, self and space.  Now the digital virus has truncated time and space.  Marooned on each instant, we have forfeited the practice of patience. . .The self has become anxious for what the next instant might bring.  The greed for destination obliterates the journey.

But a great journey needs plenty of time.  It should not be rushed; if it is, your life becomes a kind of abstract package tour devoid of beauty and meaning.  There is such a constant whirr of movement that you never know where you are.  You have no time to give yourself to the present experience.  When you accumulate experiences at such a tempo, everything becomes thin.  Consequently, you become ever more absent from your life and this fosters emptiness that haunts the heart.

When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you.  Moments of beauty begin to brand your days.  When your mind becomes more acquainted with reverence, the light, grace and elegance of beauty find you more frequently.

John O’Donohue,  Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

***

Every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say, “Oh my God, if Thy creatures are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou, Thyself, Creator of all!”  Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

*** 

Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Open your eyes.  Where do you find beauty?  What can we learn about the Maker of Heaven and Earth from looking at the beauty around us?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

 

Draw Near to God: Day One

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Day One:  Stepping Away From the Lies of the World

I call on the Lord in my distress,

and He answers me.

Save me, O Lord, from lying lips

and from deceitful tongues.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech,

that I live among the tents of Kedar.

Psalm 120: 1-2, 5

We know something is not right.  We look around at the world and wonder, is this all there is? Maybe not.  Maybe there is more.  Dissatisfaction with the world makes us open to seek God.

***

The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world.  It is a renunciation of the lies we have been told about ourselves and our neighbors and the universe.

The usual biblical word describing the ‘no’ we say to the world’s lies and the ‘yes’ we say to God’s truth is repentance. . . It is deciding you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and you neighbors and your world.  And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth.

God, revealed in his creative and redemptive work, exposes all the lies.  The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed — we see the truth. The truth about me is that God made and loves me.  The truth about those sitting beside me is that God made and loves them, each one therefore is my neighbor.

Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

***

For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation. And he welcomes us home: home to serenity and peace and joy, home to friendship and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation. . .

Dear God, 

I am so grateful for your invitation to enter your heart of love.  

As best I can I come in.  

Thank you for receiving me.

Amen

 

Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home 

***

As we begin the journey to draw close to God we need to look around at where we are – our beginning point. What are some of the lies you have believed about yourself? Others? The world? Are you ready to take a step toward God? 

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

Draw Near to God: A Yearning for Acceptance

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84: 5

The image that we have chosen for the series is a small detail of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son.  This image stirred the heart of Henry Nouwen during a critical time in his journey toward God.  The intimate embrace of the father receiving the son can bring up in us a desire for that intimacy. But how to we find it?

When I saw the Rembrandt poster for the first time in 1983, all my attention was drawn to the hands of the old father pressing his returning boy to his chest.  I saw forgiveness, reconciliation, healing; I saw safety, rest, being at home. I was so deeply touched by this image of life-giving embrace of father and son because everything in me yearned to be received in the way the prodigal son was received.  That encounter turned out to be the beginning of my own return.

Henry Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

We hope you will stay tuned as we explore that longing for God through 30 daily readings in September.  We can’t wait.

Draw Near to God

September 1 to September 30

Join us here as we share  some of our favorite readings to explore the Psalms of Ascent.

Betsy and Laurie

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

Draw Near to God: 30 Days of Readings

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Draw Near to God

September 1 to September 30

The Psalms of Ascent

Psalm 120-134

Join us here as we share  some of our favorite readings to explore the Psalms of Ascent.

These fifteen Psalms were likely sung in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to the great worship festivals.  Topographically Jerusalem was the highest city in Palestine, so all who traveled there spent much of their time ascending.  But the ascent was not only literal, it was also a metaphor, the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upward toward God. Eugene Peterson

Over the 30 days of reading we look forward to “ascending” with you.

Let’s draw near to God together.

Betsy and Laurie

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

Don’t Stay Stuck: Part Two

 

 

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It happens to us all, in writing or in life. We can get stuck.  How do we move forward and get going again?  We found these thoughts about being stuck in Andy Stanley’s ebook,  Communicating for Change.

So what do you do when you are stuck?

The first thing I do when I am stuck is pray.  But I’m not talking about a quick, Help me Lord, Sunday’s a comin’ prayer.  When I get stuck I get up from my desk to head for my closet.  Literally.  If I‘m at the office I go over to a corner that I have deemed my closet away from home.  I get on my knees and remind God that this was not my idea, it was His…

None of this is new information to God…

Then I ask God to show me if there is something He wants to say to prepare me for what He wants me to communicate to our congregation.  I surrender my ideas, my outline and my topic.  Then I just stay in that quiet place until God quiets my heart…

Many times I will have a breakthrough thought or idea that brings clarity to my message. . .

Like you, I am simply a mouthpiece.  Getting stuck is one way God keeps me ever conscious of that fact.     Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley

Can prayer be the way out?  Can being stuck be a way to pull us into the right perspective about our role?

What works for you?

Betsy and Laurie

Faith: Is Your Life a Page-Turner?

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But the fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness  Galatians 5:22-23

My friend always reads the last few pages of a book first.  She wants to be sure that she won’t be disappointed by the ending!  When I read a book I want to be surprised.  I don’t want to know what happens.  Part of the fun of a book is the journey that it takes me on.  But – I need to trust the author.

When I choose books to read, I often choose based on the person who wrote the book.  I like surprises but I want to trust that the experience of reading will entertain, delight and grow me.

My faith is like that. My faith in God intersects my action in the world.   Faith allows me step out on the journey.  But – I need to trust the author.

Can I embrace my own story despite the uncertainties of my life? I can’t flip to the end and read my final pages or even look ahead to the next chapter. But I can put my faith in the One writing the story.

 “To be certain of God is to be certain in all our ways.  You never know what a day may bring.  This is generally said with a sign of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.”  Oswald Chambers

Faith allows me to take life’s uncertainties and live in them boldly.  I can trust the God through the plot twists of life because I know He’s writing a good book.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 Hebrews 12:1-2

I’m praying for my life to be a page-turner. How about you?

Laurie and Betsy

http://www.WritingSisters

How Good is Good Enough?

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But the fruit of the Spirit is …goodness.  Galatians 5:22

In writing it is hard to know how good is good enough.  Is it good enough to finish a page, a chapter, a manuscript?  Is that good enough?

 Or is the criteria for being good enough whether your work is published? Soon after we are published we realize we only have one book or one article. Is one good enough? We look around and see that others have more.  A series!  A body of work!

And then there are reviews, awards, Do we need this affirmation to feel good enough?  The bar keeps moving.  If we chase the goal of being good enough in our writing life we will always remain frustrated. 

What about faith?  How good is good enough?  Serving others?  Telling the truth? Going to church?  Reading the Bible?  You look over and see your neighbor packing for a mission trip.  Another friend is memorizing the book of James! The bar keeps moving.  If we chase the goal of being good enough in our spiritual life we will always remain frustrated.

In my writing life I rest in the comfort that I will never be good enough.  I’ll never “make it”.  I don’t even know what “it” is. I can have peace knowing that my work is about being faithful to show up at my desk and be present.

And my faith – I’ll never be good enough with my own efforts.  I must base my faith on God’s goodness. Again I must show up and be present with God.

In both areas of my life it is in the surrender of the striving to meet the criteria of the world that brings peace and growth.

So how good is good enough for you?  What do you think?

Betsy and Laurie

Are you rooted and grounded?

English: Tree roots by the water at Vowchurch

English: Tree roots by the water at Vowchurch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Johnny Cash is singing songs from his mother’s hymn book on my ipod as I walk. “Like a tree that is planted by the water, I shall not be moved.” His voice is mature and deep, the accompaniment simple – one guitar. His song echoes my morning scripture reading from Jeremiah: “They will be like a tree planted by the water”. A reminder to stay rooted and grounded in God.

When the song is over I play it again.

My thoughts go to Johnny’s mother teaching him to sing these songs. He was my first exposure to the horror of addiction. Johnny Cash struggled most of his life with alcoholism and drugs. How hard to watch from a mother’s front row seat. I think about her singing those hymns.

I cross three streams in the park, one of them twice and I notice the trees on the banks. Some rooted tight, some just about washed away. I’ve been both in my struggles over the years to stay connected to God while raising two sons.

Carrie Cash taught her son music from an old hymnal and first accompanied him on piano in church when he was only twelve. I’m sure she had no idea what challenges were ahead for her son that day. None of us do when we bring our babies home from the hospital with hopes and dreams.

Just in my own world, mothers I know have seen in their children struggle with alcoholism, addiction, cancer, eating disorders, cutting, incarceration, death and suicide. How could we survive without faith?

Johnny continues singing his mother’s hymn. “I shall not be, I shall not be moved.”

The daily rooting. The intentional grounding. The staying immovable in the quest for faith and connection.

My sons are grown now and we all survived. New struggles and challenges come and are coming.

I play the song one more time and head back.

Betsy and Laurie

WritingSisters.com

 

Can You Use a Little Kindness?

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But the fruit of the Spirit is …kindness.  Galatians 5:22

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

Henri Nouwen

The best writing comes from connection, compassion, and empathy.  In short:  Kindness.

Kindness can influence the way we write or live:

In kindness there is a connection.  You cannot be kind all by yourself.  As we put words down and create story we can write in a spirit of kindness, reaching out to connect with others.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.”

Anne Lamott

In kindness there is surrender.  We have to give up something.  A right.  Something we possess.  Time.

“The dedicated life is the life worth living. You must give with your whole heart.”

 Annie Dillard

In kindness there is compassion.  We give of ourselves because we have received.  God is described in the Bible as the God of all comfort:

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

 2 Corinthians 1:4

We have received kindness from others.  Other writers have shared their stories and pain allowing us to move from isolation to the knowledge that we are not alone in our humanity.

We have received kindness from God.  The comfort we have experienced from faith gives us the strength and ability to comfort others.

Where have you experienced kindness?

Can you use a little kindness? Please share.

Betsy and Laurie

 

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